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Secret Stratford-Upon-Avon: - Nick Fogg, Marlborough’s own authority on the Bard and their common birthplace lifts the lid on some of the lesser known but important spots

How many people reading this haven’t been to Stratford-upon-Avon?  Not many.  It is, after all, one of the most visited places in the Kingdom.  Over a million people attend its theatres alone each year and that’s not to mention the thousands who visit Shakespeare’s Birthplace and Anne Hathaway’s Cottage.

Yet few of these probably know that there’s a lot more to see in the town than these much-visited places.  That’s the issue that Nicholas Fogg has addressed.  Born in Stratford himself and, appropriately, author of a best-selling biography of his famous fellow townsman, in his latest book, 'Secret Stratford-Upon-Avon he has explored the town’s hidden nooks and crannies – those that the visitor may even see, without realising their significance.

No-one reading this book will ever look at Stratford in the same way again.  Statues are a good starting point: the great actor, David Garrick presented one of Shakespeare which adorns a niche in the Town Hall.  There’s the one of Lady Macbeth for which the great actress, Sarah Bernhardt was the model and then there’s the one of Hermaphroditus.  He was a good-looking lad with whom the water nymph, Salmacis, fell helplessly in love.  Her prayer to the Gods that they might be one was granted, but not in the way she hoped.  The two were united in one body.  He/she now stands, complete with tits and balls, on an arm of Stratford’s canal basin.  The figure was created by John Henry Foley, a distinguished Irish sculptor whose most famous work is the Albert Memorial.

Other ‘secrets’ include the first of the hundreds of buildings throughout the world to be named after Queen Victoria (Princess in this case, actually), an obelisk erected to the memory of an MP who voted for the Great Reform Act, a tree planted in memory of Vivien Leigh, the tombstone of Shakespeare’s son-in-law, John Hall, who was the first to realise that scurvy is a vitamin deficiency disease and a pitch for playing the medieval game of Nine Men’s Morris.

Moving the focus away from Stratford to Nick's adopted town, Marlborough, we asked what secret places does our town hold?  After a bit of thought, he came up with the following suggested features:

1. The coat-of-arms bearing the gifts that were presented to the Mayor on his inauguration.
2. The pub door through which Derby-winners passed.
3. The sign of a pub that closed decades ago.
4. The carvings on The Green that represent tobacco plants.
5. The date of the Great Fire of Marlborough over the fireplace at a local bistro.
6. A memorial to the Commander of the Camel Corps.
7. A Roman villa in Back Lane.
8. The pillar that oxidised in the Great Fire of Marlborough.
9. The font in which royal babies were baptised.
10. The most ancient tee-off in the world.
11. The gymnasium that was once the town lock-up.


Have you any thoughts on ‘Secret Marlborough’ places? Let us know - by e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and title the e-mail 'Secret Marlborough'.
'Secret Stratford-Upon-Avon' by Nicholas Fogg is published by Amberley and costs £14.99

 

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